The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
The day started off cold, cloudy and very rainy (maybe it was symbolic). I made my way to Rush Medical Center where I met with the leading Sports Medicine physician in Chicago. The physician was impressed by my training and admired my tenacity to get back to competing in triathlons, but wanted me to hold off from having a partial knee replacement for as long as I could. He contended that even though my knee was in need of a replacement, he felt I was too young. He also stated that I should not run on a replacement as it decreases the life of the implant. As much as I agree with this obvious statement, I feel not having the surgery decreases the quality of my life. I can’t forget my Dad waiting too long to have a knee replacement and in the end, he was in constant pain and for no good reason. The physician went on to say, “If you get the replacement be prepared to not compete in triathlons again!” Those words cut through me like a jagged piece of glass. The very sport I have come to love and hunger for would be a distant memory… or would it? I left the office knowing that my next appointment in Fort Wayne, IN might be a bit more promising. So I began the 3.5 hour drive hoping for help from the Hoosiers.
As I drove through the cornfields, with farms all around, I had a good 3 hours to think about life, goals, hopes and dreams. I was remembering the very feeling of completing in my first triathlon and placing first in my age group. I had not intended to place, I simply wanted to survive. And yet I crossed the finish line with a large sense of accomplishment and no expectation except to find some water and food. When I heard what place I took, I was shocked… My first triathlon, not even going my fastest and there I was on the winner’s stand. I remember thinking, if only my Dad could see me now. My Dad at the time was in a retirement center being cared for after suffering a massive stroke. I do believe he would have been so proud. So as I drove, I clung to hope that Dr. Fisher in Indiana could give me back the opportunity to compete again or at the very least be able to lace my runner’s up and enjoy an early morning sunrise while on a run… I didn’t think I was asking for much.
After arriving in Fort Wayne, the concierge at the hotel was surprised to see me come from so far away, but was not surprised when I explained why. It appears there are many people who travel to Fort Wayne for the same thing. My appointment was the next morning, but I still had a Quest to go on.
As I researched Fort Wayne, I was introduced to “Little Turtle”, military leader of the Miami tribe during the late 18th century. He is not as well-known as some of the other more prominent Native American chiefs, but his story is one I feel compelled to share.
Little Turtle was born in 1747 near Devil’s Lake, IN. He was the son of the Chief of the Miami tribe. He was described as a lover of good companionship, fine food and good humor…. my kind of guy! 😉 Little Turtle was a warrior in the truest sense of the word, in that he led his tribe into battle against the U.S. Army at Fort Recovery in 1791. He defended his land with 1,000 warriors against an army of 1300 soldiers and in the process killed 602 soldiers and wounded 309. His men only suffered 66 fatalities. This was considered one of the greatest defeats of US troops by the Indians–even more notable than Custer’s Last Stand or Little Big Horn. He continued to defeat U.S. troops that were on a path to punishing his and other tribes. Eventually, Little Turtle and his tribe were defeated. It was after this defeat that Little Turtle began to advocate for peace with the Americans. In addition, it is documented that Little Turtle did not like to see black men enslaved, as he felt all men should be free. He was known to gather some black men into his tribe and provide a better life for them. He was not shy about sharing his viewpoints regarding the fact that every human being should be respected, regardless of background or culture. Since his belief was highly controversial at the time, not much has been documented as to what happened to the men after Little Turtle died. It is presumed that they continued to live with the remaining living family members of Little Turtle. During his life, he met George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, among others. In the end, Little Turtle died in Fort Wayne in 1812 of natural causes.
Why is Little Turtle’s story so important to tell? Little Turtle was certainly brave in war, leading his tribe to fight to protect their land, their culture, their way of life, their freedom! One man, one tribe, one mission and in the end, after many lives were surrendered, peace replaced his appetite to fight… I can only imagine the thoughts he struggled with to change his ways. And it was adversity that revealed his true peace-making character. This act of change, however challenging, started from his spirit from within and ultimately grew into an attribute to be recognized and admired.
I set out to find his burial marker but it sits on a private residence. So, a little distance away was a rose garden that was started in 1908. In the rain, I walked to think about what courage it took for Little Turtle to be defeated and find ways to make peace. And as I walked through the rain and was captivated by raindrops resting on newly blossomed tulips, it became apparent that sometimes the road we want to take leads us in a more promising direction if we let it….
Absolutely inspired by this Quest…. What will tomorrow bring?